Starting a business has become a big part of the American dream, right up there with owning a house in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and a dog. But, while most people have dreamed up their own business plans at one point or another, few actually act on it. The fear of uncertain income, insurance costs, overhead, and much more kicks in.
Since having dedicated office space is usually unrealistic in the early stages of your business, many entrepreneurs end up holding court at coffee shops for their working and meeting needs. I know this from personal experience as I frequented my local coffee shop, Boston Coffee in downtown DeLand on several occasions for meetings during our first two years.
If your local coffee shop is serving as your temporary office space, there are a few pieces of etiquette that I'd like to pass along, especially if you plan on being welcomed back the next day:
If you plan on taking over a table or sprawling out in one of your coffee shop's enormous chairs for several hours while taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi, you better buy something.
Instead of taking a lunch break from the coffee shop, buy your lunch there. If you're not one to drink a lot of coffee, consider leaving a nice tip for the one or two drinks that you do buy.
Don't overstay your welcome.
If it's your first time working out of a coffee shop, try to limit your visit to 3 or 4 hours. You don't want to come off as a freeloader. Once the staff gets to know you and sees that you make purchases and give tips, they won't mind you working an 8 hour day out of their coffee shop.
Word of advice: be sure to leave the coffee shop well before closing time. When the baristas are trying to close up shop, it can be incredibly time consuming for them to have to ask patrons to leave.
Take your lengthy business calls outside.
This is for the courtesy of the other guests in the coffee shop. And if you absolutely need to take a call while indoors, be mindful of your volume.
Limit your group meetings to 4 people.
Try to schedule meetings when the coffee shop is less busy. It's also a good idea to talk to the coffee shop in advance to make sure that you'll have enough space to accommodate your meeting. Everyone in your meeting should make a purchase at the coffee shop, whether you're picking up the bill or your colleagues are handling it on their own.
Never bring in your own food.
Yes, coffee shop food tends to have a premium price; however, remember that the coffee shop is providing free office space and Wi-Fi for you. Bringing in your own food is just plain rude, and it's certainly not a way to get the baristas to welcome you back.
All in all, your local coffee shop is the perfect, cost-effective place to start your business and get it growing. Hopefully, you'll follow this coffee shop etiquette so that you can make the most of these exciting early years of your business and eventually transition into an office space of your own.